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Aristotle and Dante #1

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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Dante can swim. Ari can't. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari's features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

390 pages, Hardcover

First published February 21, 2012

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About the author

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

42 books14.3k followers
Benjamin Alire Sáenz (born 16 August 1954) is an award-winning American poet, novelist and writer of children's books.

He was born at Old Picacho, New Mexico, the fourth of seven children, and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla, New Mexico. He graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1972. That fall, he entered St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado where he received a B.A. degree in Humanities and Philosophy in 1977. He studied Theology at the University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium from 1977 to 1981. He was a priest for a few years in El Paso, Texas before leaving the order.

In 1985, he returned to school, and studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso where he earned an M.A. degree in Creative Writing. He then spent a year at the University of Iowa as a PhD student in American Literature. A year later, he was awarded a Wallace E. Stegner fellowship. While at Stanford University under the guidance of Denise Levertov, he completed his first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, which won an American Book Award in 1992. He entered the Ph.D. program at Stanford and continued his studies for two more years. Before completing his Ph.D., he moved back to the border and began teaching at the University of Texas at El Paso in the bilingual MFA program.

His first novel, Carry Me Like Water was a saga that brought together the Victorian novel and the Latin American tradition of magic realism and received much critical attention.

In The Book of What Remains (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), his fifth book of poems, he writes to the core truth of life's ever-shifting memories. Set along the Mexican border, the contrast between the desert's austere beauty and the brutality of border politics mirrors humanity's capacity for both generosity and cruelty.

In 2005, he curated a show of photographs by Julian Cardona.

He continues to teach in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 66,186 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,459 reviews8,561 followers
January 11, 2013

1. Obtain a copy of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

2. Read the book.

3. Fall in love. Fall in love with the writing, the characters, everything. Read past midnight, read in school, read everywhere and all the time. Slam the book shut and whisper-scream oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. At the end of the book, allow a single tear to run down your right cheek and say a silent prayer of thanks for the fact that you are able to read at all.

Perhaps I’m making this book seem more dramatic than it actually is. It’s not dramatic at all, in the typical sense. There are no overtly sentimental Nicholas Sparks plot twists, no super sexy erotica Fifty Shades of Grey style, not even an ardent declaration of love via Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This book is about two Mexican-American teens trying to find their way in the world, but before they do that, they find each other – Aristotle and Dante, the former a self-doubting silent guy, the latter an expressive, fair skinned swimmer. We experience the story from Ari’s perspective, from the first time he met Dante at his local swimming pool.

I’d never really been very close to other people. I was pretty much a loner. I’d played basketball and baseball and done the Cub Scout thing, tried the Boy Scout thing – but I always kept my distance from the other boys. I never felt like I was a part of their world.

Throughout the book, Aristotle and Dante are exposed and layered, continually growing more complex but also becoming more bare. Their coming of age story is shown beautifully. What seems like a simple story about friendship is a simple story about friendship, but there are profound themes woven in and the quality of the characterization is simply breathtaking. Dante, a lover of poetry and a passionate crier, reminded me of myself so much it hurt, while every ounce of Aristotle’s emotions – his confusion, his longing, his hate – resonated with me.

I sometimes think that I don’t let myself know what I’m really thinking about. That doesn’t make much sense but it makes sense to me. I have this idea that the reason we have dreams is that we’re thinking about things we don’t know we’re thinking about – and those things, well, they sneak out of us in our dreams. Maybe we’re like tires with too much air in them. The air has to leak out. That’s what dreams are.

Benjamin Alire Saenz has poetic prose. There aren’t many compound sentences or large SAT words in this book, but every word impacted me. Sometimes the shortest sentence flooded me with feeling. Every description of Dante’s laugh, every time the boys would call each other weird, every moment they spent together – it felt like I was there, experiencing their friendship and their bond.

Have you ever heard that saying, if there’s a book you want to read but it’s not published, write it yourself? I won’t stop writing, but Saenz has accomplished that for me here. Saenz dedicates this book “to all the boys who’ve had to learn to play by different rules.” As a homosexual Asian-American living in Virginia, I’ve had to learn to play by the rules of my parents, my society, and most importantly, myself. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe will speak to Mexican-Americans, homosexuals, tom-girls, book nerds, loners, etc. Essentially, it will appeal to everyone who’s ever felt different, who’s ever felt like they weren’t sure of who they were. Highly recommended for all.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
September 16, 2014
I have been saving this book. Just waiting for the right moment for us to come together and love one another. And this book is fine, I guess. It's okay. But I really don't see the magic that prompted so many five star ratings and literary awards.

It's weird because I was sure we were meant for each other. A Printz Honor book featuring a gay romance between two quirky characters - one of whom is a rough guy who gets into fights and has a complicated relationship with his father; the other being a sweet and sensitive boy who loves his poetry. Throw in some philosophical musings and a generous helping of poetic teen angst and you should be serving up a new favourite of mine, right?

Apparently not.

I love deep, complex and emotional contemporary YA that reminds me why I still read books aimed at teens. But, you know, I just didn't find this book as deep and meaningful as it was obviously trying to be. There were some intriguing passages thrown in that were clearly meant to tickle our inner emos, like:
“The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.”

“I wondered what it was we were laughing about. Was it just our names? Were we laughing because we were relieved? Were we happy? Laughter was another one of life’s mysteries.”

But it all felt like a good old example of trying too hard. The characters of Aristotle and Dante are two very different individuals who form an instant connection and go on to become close friends, but they never seemed like anything but caricatures of angsty teens with the pretentious poetry reading and frequent philosophical phrases that made me cringe.

The dialogue was particularly unrealistic. There are some writers who can pull off floaty poetic speech between their characters, and then there are those who fail to sound more than fake, overdone and scripted. In my opinion, this book was in the latter category. However, I feel this way about John Green and everyone seems to love him too, so it's hardly surprising that I once again find myself in the minority.

Not only does the constant waxing poetic feel a bit off, but the rest of the time we're treated to a choppy, fragmented narrative that gave me flashbacks to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. For example:

“When I got home, I sat on my front porch.
I watched the sun set.
I felt alone, but not in a bad way. I really liked being alone. Maybe I liked it too much. Maybe my father was like that too.
I thought of Dante and wondered about him.”

I think I get what this book was trying to do and I also get what many people probably thought it was doing... but I can point you towards authors who do a similar kind of thing and make it seem less cheesy and far more real and meaningful: A.S.King, Melina Marchetta, Matthew Quick and Sara Zarr, to name but a few. When compared to the works of those authors, these characters and this writing just pale in comparison. In my opinion, anyway.

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Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 501 books402k followers
February 19, 2018
YA realistic fiction.

This book has won so many awards I could barely see the cover under all the stickers! After reading it, I understood why it gets so much praise. Sáenz tells the story of two young men, Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza and Dante Quintana growing up in El Paso, Texas during the 1980s. We follow their lives from age fifteen to seventeen, watching their relationship slowly grow, change and strengthen. Told from Ari’s point of view, the novel is crafted in short, lyrical chapters. The prose sings. The dialogue is pitch-perfect. The story is quiet and gentle, but it pulls the reader through the narrative beautifully.

Ari has loving parents, though his father silently bears the traumas of the Vietnam War, keeping him distant from his son. Ari’s sisters are a generation older, making him feel like the family mascot rather than an equal sibling. Most troubling of all, the family has erased all traces of Ari’s older brother, whom he barely remembers, who went to prison for a violent crime. Ari longs to know more and feels betrayed by his parents’ silence. Overall, Ari feels like his life “is a story written by someone else,” a sentiment I suspect many teens can relate to.

Ari has no real friends, nor does he want any, but in the summer of his fifteen year he meets Dante at the swimming pool, and Dante offers to teach him how to swim. They bond initially over their unusual names, but soon they are spending the bulk of their time together. We follow them through funny episodes, horrific accidents and tragic losses, watching their awkward and tentative friendship turn into the sort of bond that will challenge what Ari believes about himself and his capacity for love.

I won’t give away the ending, but I kept thinking about it long after I finished the book. It didn’t end the way I expected it to, perhaps because of my own point-of-view and life experience, but I now see it ended the only way it could, as Ari learns how to reject the story others have written for him and write his life himself. This would be a great book club choice to spur discussions about identity and acceptance. Highly recommended.

I found this book thanks to the website Queer Books for Teens: http://queerbooksforteens.com/
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
October 27, 2020
“The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.”

I've heard so many good things about this novel and seen it all over Tumblr. I wanted to read this so badly, which is why I finally, finally got my hands on a copy and started reading right away. I also finished reading it right away.

My thoughts:
Well, first of all, I love the way I can identify with Ari and Dante, but especially with Ari. Sometimes his stubbornness got on my nerves and I wanted to shake him and tell him that he should just go and love Dante. But on the other hand, everything just felt so real.
Which leads me to my second point about how I kept on reading and nodding my head, smiling about how true some statements and feelings pictured in the novel felt. The thing is, Sáenz does not try to be philosophical and poetic. He doesn't have to.
Third, you can see how Ari grows. In the beginning, he is a 15-year-old boy, he talks like a 15-year-old boy, he thinks like one. But as he grows older he learns and experiences things, especially through Dante, he changes. I just want to state that this novel is a perfect example of character development.

What bothered me (just a little), is the ending. Yes, it's happy and lovely and that's what I wished for but I had the feeling that everything went too fast. Particularly the revelations about the past.
And also I am kind of angry. Why, whywhywhy couldn't we read more about their happy ever after? I mean, I've been waiting for this the whole time and now I don't even get two whole pages of Ari&Dante as a couple! Not fair. I want - need - a sequel!

I'm still very much in love with this book. There may have been something in my eyes, they got a little teary.

We're getting a sequel. Someone must have heard my prayers.

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Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.2k followers
October 23, 2013
This book was so so beautiful.

In actuality, it doesn't have a "plot". Not a main story or event that the characters center around. It's about a boy. It's a story about a boy who is sad and angry and can't figure out why. It's about him trying to love himself and others. It's about the teenage condition and mentality.

Let's talk about why I loved it. Mainly, I loved the mood and tone. It made me feel mellow and warm. I liked that it was slow paced, that it felt like real life with small but important events happening. I actually really liked Aristotle, the main character, even though he's kind of a jerk. But the thing is he doesn't want to be a jerk. I loved the relationships, especially with his best friend, Dante. It was real friendship, not false or easy. I loved the emphasis on family. And the ending was beautiful. So beautiful. I really related to the main character, his struggles of culture and feeling lonely and regretting growing up. And when I didn't relate to him I still empathized. I just wanted to hug Aristotle.

I didn't realize how much I loved this book until it ended. I flew through it so quickly that I didn't realize how beautiful it was, how happy it made me feel. This is absolutely a new favourite. I can't wait to reread it.
Profile Image for NickReads.
461 reviews1,199 followers
May 20, 2020
Here's to Sam for being the coolest dad of the universe
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
June 18, 2022

i really thought this was going to be a slam-dunk of a book. all those prestigious awards and recognitions, a gay coming-of-age story that got the coveted dana stamp of approval, that cover….

and it is not a bad book, not by a long shot; i definitely enjoyed reading it. it just doesn't transcend its YA status like so many YA books do. this is an excellent book for its audience, but for me, it doesn't have that crossover appeal that so many recent YA titles have had.

it gets points for featuring an untraditional LGBT protagonist; a young mexican-american boy with few social attachments, dealing with his distant war-haunted father, his much older, clucking sisters, the (figurative) ghost of his brother, about whom no one has spoken since he was incarcerated, and his own inability to make emotional connections, or even feel much of anything except a simmering, inarticulate rage. his mother is very loving and supportive, but ari lacks a true male role model figure, since his father is shuttered in a cage of his memories of vietnam and drifts through ari's life without being any kind of real presence. ari has always felt apart, particularly from the world of boys and their interests.

I’d never really been very close to other people. I was pretty much a loner. I’d played basketball and baseball and done the Cub Scout thing, tried the Boy Scout thing – but I always kept my distance from the other boys. I never felt like I was a part of their world.

his is not a case of being a bookish, indoor kid who doesn't relate to the rough and tumble world of "normal" boys; he likes to fight and drink and he wants a truck and a dog - he has just never felt comfortable in the company of boys.

until he meets dante.

dante is definitely one of the indoor boys. he is sensitive, he reads poetry and draws, he is emotional and frequently cries, and asks probing and highly personal questions with his deeply inquisitive mind. he is also mexican-american, but has only a tenuous relationship to his cultural heritage, and this discomfort affects him deeply, even though he is very self-assured in other aspects of his character.

for some reason, the two boys find something in each other that just clicks, and they become inseparable over the course of a summer. the novel traces their relationship and their various insecurities and their growing attachment to each other from ari's perspective, as he struggles with his identity and his inability to recognize what it is that he wants out of life.

and that is gripe number one.

my second gripe is the writing style, particularly the dialogue. there are people who have a knack for dialogue and people who do not, and people who have a facility for writing stilted stylized dialog that doesn't "ring true" but is still effective, like david mamet. but here, the dialogue didn't feel natural and these characters never came alive for me. there was a lot of repetition in their speech, and a lot of those snappy, witty moments you find in YA contemporary fiction, but it never felt relaxed. to use this portion of a david foster wallace interview i just read:

That's why people use terms like flow or effortless to describe writing that they regard as really superb. They're not saying effortless in terms of it didn't seem like the writer spent any work. It simply requires no effort to read it - the same way listening to an incredible storyteller talk out loud requires no effort to pay attention. Whereas when you're bored, you're conscious of how much effort is required to pay attention.

and i wasn't bored - i am not saying that, but i think the same rule applies to things that are so overly manipulated that they don't feel the way people really speak or interact. i mean, it's a novel - we all know it is a construct, but sometimes even a construct can feel… effortless.

for example, i just don't buy this kind of emo-poetic musing coming from a kid who pushes down all his emotions and is battling all his violent urges:

Even though summers were mostly made of sun and heat, summers for me were about the storms that came and went. And left me feeling alone.

Did all boys feel alone?

The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.

but enough of my griping - there are some really touching moments in here, although for me, the most resonant ones came from ari's relationship with his parents rather than his relationship with dante.

good stuff, just not the lingering heartbreaking tenderness i was anticipating.

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Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
531 reviews34.5k followers
July 17, 2019
”Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?”

I think I rarely read an introduction to a book that touched me as much as this one did. It were exactly questions like that I asked myself when I was a young and confused teen. I was always more serious than the other kids and there were things they just didn’t understand. When I was seventeen life was tough for me, at least more tough than for other people my age. I asked myself questions they wouldn’t ask themselves for decades and I had to ask those questions because life and my personal experiences kind of forced me to.

Just like Ari, I was thinking about so many things, wondering about my place in this world. Why did some things have to end? Why did others start? Why did my heart hurt so much? Gosh, I really wish I would have had this book in my teens, because it definitely would have made me feel better. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” certainly is a book that’s important and needed! It’s one of those reads that is able to change you, to help you and I really, really wish I would have had it back then. XD It captured the problems of adolescence so damn well and because of that, it’s easily become one of my all-time favourites. =)

”Sometimes I think my father has all these scars. On his heart. In his head. All over.”

The problem about those scars is that no one can see them and most people don’t even bother to try to understand. I loved that Ari truly wanted to know what his father felt and that he wanted him to tell him about his feelings and thoughts. But just like Ari (and basically everyone else on this world) his father was a creature of his experiences and his environment. The war he had fought had changed him and the experience with his eldest son had shaped him as well. It’s never easy to talk about things that are so close to our heart, but Ari’s father made an effort and I think that counts for something.

”You were looking for me,” he said.
I looked at him.
“In your dream. You were looking for me.”
“I’m always looking for you,” I whispered.

”I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get – and never would get.”

I guess in some way this sentence explains a lot about the book. There were people Ari didn’t understand and there were people who understood him pretty well but couldn’t seem to be able to convey it. For instance his parents and Dante. Dante understood him more than anyone else and I think in some way he might have even hated him for it. At least at the beginning of the book. The more time passed the less he saw him as a threat. It’s just that Dante always asked the right questions, he is honest and very outspoken and therefore the complete opposite of Ari who always keeps his feelings and words to himself.

While Dante admits that he loves Ari (and this pretty early on in the book), Ari isn’t only unable to accept his own feelings but also incapable to voice them properly. He’s overwhelmed and he feels helpless. So basically just like any other teen, right? *lol*

”I love swimming,” he said again. He was quiet for a little while. And then he said, “I love swimming – and you.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Swimming and you, Ari. Those are the things I love the most.”

And even though Ari tells him not to voice those thoughts it’s still obvious that he feels the same way about Dante as well. Call me crazy but in some way this was really beautiful to watch. XD I mean we have a boy who knows exactly what he wants and we have a boy who questions everything and doesn’t even know who he is. Still, there’s no doubt Ari loves Dante too, because even though he can’t admit it, his thoughts speak their own language.

”And it seemed to me that Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without any darkness.
Wow, a world without darkness. How beautiful was that?”

Despite all this, it was still amazing to see that their friendship was able to survive every blow of fate that was thrown their way. I just loved their dynamic and the fact that they knew each other inside out. Their friendship was #friendshipgoals and it were always those little, to some people rather insignificant moments, which touched me the most and automatically warmed my heart.

”How many burgers did you flip to buy the book?”
“That’s a very Dante question,” I said.
“That’s a very Ari answer,” he said.
And then we started laughing and couldn’t stop.

Also can I say how much I loved the way Ari described his relationship to his mother? Those two had me close to tears more often than once and I just adored the way they spoke with each other, how open and extremely honest they were. Ari’s and Dante’s moms definitely are #momgoals and I strive to become an awesome mother like that too! <3

”I could feel my mom listening to me. She was always there. I hated her for that. And loved her.”

”And I knew that there was something about me that Mrs. Quintana saw and loved. And even though I felt it was a beautiful thing, I also felt it was a weight. Not that she meant it to be a weight. But love was always something heavy for me. Something I had to carry.”

All told, I really loved this book and I can recommend it to every teenager who feels lost and alone. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” is a wonderful and exceptionally beautiful read. It’s full of poetry and the important questions of life, it’s a journey with a beginning and an end and it’s so damn relatable that you can’t help but fall in love with it.

I’m sure young and old will enjoy it and I hope everyone who reads it will discover the secrets of the universe as well. Sometimes the journey is everything that truly matters. ;-P



I’m finally reading this!!! =))

I swear, I wanted to read this book for ages and even wrote it on my TBR list for 2018.

Well and then I saw that it’s super expensive. Even for my kindle. I mean EUR 11,20 is a pretty hefty price for an e-book. (At least if you consider that you don’t even have an actual book after purchasing it!) >_<

So I decided to wait and then something magical happened when I was at the library last week.
I found “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” in the middle of a cart that was full of returned books and it almost felt like destiny wanted me to grab it.

And that’s exactly what I did! *imagine a He-Man like moment with his precious sword, only that it was this book for me* XD I let out a delighted squeal (I doubt He-Man ever did this but that’s not the point) and rushed to the next best library terminal to borrow it for FREE!!!

I’m still chuckling like mad and I’m sooo going to read the hell out of this book!
Universe, this better be good! *lol*

P.S: I think I read too much “Ready Player One” lately! Sorry! ;-P
Profile Image for Carolyn.
103 reviews22 followers
May 4, 2015
Warning - this is going to be an honest, blunt review. I'm sure it won't hurt the book's high ratings, considering it's "critically acclaimed." I really wanted to like this - I usually don't believe the hype, but I do tend to believe the awards, and thought I was in for a sweet, profound story. Sadly, I'm losing faith in the publishing industry. The writing was worse than a certain other book I thought was the worst.

I felt like I was reading a very weak rough draft. The characters all spoke the same way, they repeated each other constantly as this cutesy device that got old fast, and the worst offender - they said each other's name in almost every sentence. Even Ari's surgeon spoke this way. If the dog could talk, she would have spoken this way, too. One doesn't need to take Writing 101 to know not to have the characters repeat each other's names in dialogue - it sounds unnatural and amateurish. There is one page where Ari's mom says his name in almost every sentence of their conversation. Ari Ari Ari. Another where I swear, it's like every other word is "mom." (pg. 136 Kindle version)

This is my own unrelated example of what this mess read like to me:

"That's a great pair of socks, Mike."
"Well, Tom, I like socks."
"I wonder, Mike, if I like socks, too."
"I don't know, Tom, have you ever tried them?"
I wondered about that. I wasn't human about socks.
"No, Mike, I haven't, Mike."
I thought about Mike. Why couldn't I answer questions when people asked? Why didn't I like socks? Do boys like socks?
"Okay, Tom. Okay, you weird sweet boy."
I thought about Mike a lot. He was my only friend. But I wanted to punch him in the face.

Ari's name is said over 300 times, and Dante's name over 500 - my Kindle couldn't count any higher. IT. WAS. MADDENING.

And there were lines like this: "I knew about coyotes. I was way into coyotes." HUH? No, explanation. Just so RANDOM.

Then there was this gem: "I remember staring at myself in the mirror. I remember whispering 'You are a beautiful boy.' I didn't believe it - but I wanted to." He's 16 here, I think. Am I supposed to believe he whispered to himself in the mirror that he's a beautiful boy? He's like a Saturday Night Live sketch, so corny you'd think it was meant to be comedy. But... it's not.

And this convo with his dad about a dog: "She followed me home from the park." "Are you interested in him?"..."And yeah, I'm very interested." Now tell me, who says "Are you interested in him?" about a dog? How about, do you want to keep it? But not, "Are you interested in him?"

As I said, every character sounded like the same person when they spoke, their conversations consisting mostly of these short choppy sentences, with no real depth, except a few long-winded, try-hard monologues. It left me wondering (don't get me started on how many times Ari "wonders" and asks inane questions - it's repetitive, lazy writing) who these characters were supposed to be. They were like shells - devoid of any personality. All they did was whine, wonder, and say each other's names. It was the most unnatural dialogue I've ever read in a published work.

The blurb does it no justice - Ari wasn't the angry young man, but he did strike me as a whiny little emo boy in an older teen's body. He was so self-centered, to the point where you'd think the universe revolved around him. Dante is supposed to be a know-it-all, but I didn't get that impression at all. He was also a whiny kid, but one who liked to talk about how great his parents were. Yes, teens can and should respect and love their parents, but to constantly talk about them with each other? Unrealistic.

Their friendship had no build-up. There was no connection between them, because there were no personalities or depth there to connect, so it rang false to me. There was way too much telling, and not enough showing. You can't just say, "he was my friend" without showing me why. You can't have them making out, suddenly, when there was so little that made them real.

"We laughed." "We busted out laughing." "We cracked up laughing." They laughed so hard at the simplest things. Things that might have warranted a polite chuckle at most... I know I was supposed to think "Ahh, look how they laugh together" but there was nothing even remotely funny going on?

The parents could have been the same person - even Ari's dad who was supposed to have PTSD from serving in Vietnam seemed mellow and bland, and nothing like Ari "thinks" of him. Even Ari's thoughts are choppy, inarticulate musings that do nothing but make him seem like a simpleton.

And that ending? Could it be any more insipid? Could Ari be anymore lackluster and boring and just there? All it took to realize he was gay and in love with Dante was a sit down with his supposedly closed-off parents? He barely even considered in his own weak thoughts that he might be gay, until mom and dad told him he was?? It was absurd. Not to mention the total lack of chemistry between the two boys. But it's hard for characters to have chemistry when they are basically empty shells.

There was also no point to having it set in the 80's. It didn't read like historical fiction.

This book was terrible. If you loved this book, I'm happy for you, because that means you are going to be in blissful, sublime ecstasy when you read a well-written book. You will keel over in joy.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
402 reviews3,495 followers
March 25, 2023
“In order to be wildly popular you had to make people believe that you were fun and interesting. I just wasn’t that much of a con artist.”
- Ari in "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe"

Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a coming-of-age novel set in 1987. You guessed it. It centers on two 15-year-old boys, Ari and Dante. They are struggling with finding their place in the world and claiming their identity with respect to love, gender, and being Mexican.

Ari and Dante are completely different people. Ari’s family doesn’t talk. His father is suffering from PTSD after serving in Vietnam, and Ari has a brother who is in prison. The family intentionally never talks about the brother and has removed all traces of him from the house. On the other hand, Dante’s family is very affectionate and likes to talk about everything.

The Good

The first half of this book starts out strongly, particularly the storytelling. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is very humorous, particularly in the first half. And it also has some great quotes. “The DJ was saying annoying, obvious things like, “It’s summer! It’s hot out there!”

Additionally, this book is quick to read with short paragraphs and short chapters. The conversations flow like a real conversation, and the book isn’t mired down by complex, flowery prose.

The Bad

The second half of the book is a bit slower. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a character-driven novel, and typically I don’t enjoy these types of novels as much as plot-driven books. By the second half, I was thinking, “I wonder where this is going.” Full disclosure: This is my personal preference so if you love character-driven novels, this might not be an issue for you.

Although titled Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, the book only follows Ari’s perspective. I think this book would have been better if it shifted perspectives between Ari and Dante (even if this style is really overdone in literature).

Another issue that I have with this book is that sometimes it reads like a corny, cheesy pamphlet on growing up. The comments regarding hair/body changes were a bit over the top.

Finally, the ending, in my humble opinion, is a bit too cliché.

Overall, this book is pretty entertaining, but the style (the character-driven focus and the ending) didn’t resonate with me.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
660 reviews3,882 followers
July 3, 2017
“Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing.”

I put off writing this review for months and months. Not because I didn't want to write it - I did. Believe me, I've worked this draft over and over like it's my magnum opus. I just wanted to get this review right, and to really communicate exactly how much this book means to me. I failed, but I did my best.

This review is going to be grossly personal, because this book meant so much to me personally. To me it wasn't just a cute book or a fun read - it felt like someone had gone into my brain and tore out all the thoughts and feelings I didn't want everyone else to know about. This is many, many gay ya readers favourite book and it is so easy to get why.

“Words were different when they lived inside of you.”

It was after reading this quote at 1.06am on a saturday night I started to cry - I know because I have a snapchat photo of me crying about this book which is timestamped. Anyway, the reason this is the line that earned my very rare book tears because I related to it so hard, because this line had summarised in 9 words all the tumbling turning thoughts I had about being out to myself in my head and not to the world.

"I guess I'm going to tell my dad. I have this little speech. It starts something like this. Dad, I have something to say. I like boys. Don't hate me. Please don't hate me, don't hate me don't hate me."

Another line that earned a giant sob from me. It was amazing how Benjamin Alire Saenz was able to pinpoint some of the exact thoughts and feelings about living closeted and considering coming out. I truly don't think you can understand unless you've experienced it or are experiencing it what it's like, and its impossible for me to explain, but this book got about as close as you can get to putting it into words.

And Aristotle and Dante as characters are incredibly sympathetic and complex and their pain is mine too. This is probably the book I am most protective over because it meant so much to me and people bash Ari all the time just because they didn't understand him. These characters struggle with so much, internalised-homophobia, shame, deep-rooted social stigma and violent homophobia and yet they rise, and they are so brave. Aristotle comes to terms with his own internalised homophobia, and not only that he conquers it. Dante deals with so much violence and hate but he's so strong and he never backs down and I love him for that.

I hate that people make this book about Ari and Dante relationship as a couple and don't think about their growth as people - or their deep friendship that was already a relationship before the final pages. Their relationship is important, and trust me I adore those final few pages - but what I also liked was how realistic this was, how it looked properly at why gay teenagers, especially boys, are struggling and why homophobia is still so persistent.

So here is the crux of this review: this is one of those books I can say is for us gay kids.Sure, you can read it if you're straight and you can enjoy it ect ect but this is one of those books that so truly captured my experiences and thoughts and I justdon't think you can get it if you've not experienced the same It breaks my heart, it is so painful and raw and true. But it also makes me so happy, because it's so hopeful and honest and brave and I have such a deep admiration for Benjamin Alire Saenz too, because I know how he's struggled too.

I genuinely don't think I could ever give this book justice in a review - characters and everything else aside the writing is gorgeous - stunning. Truly one of the most beautiful and poetic books, and I think the book I have saved the most quotes from. Every word was a blow, some really really hurt - but some gave me relief. It is an intense and indescribable relief to have something you've been feeling but couldn't really put into thoughts written down in hard words right in front of you.

(by junknight on tumblr)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe changed my life, I deadass am not joking when I say this. I don't think any book has as accurately depicted how I was feeling. Few books have ever truly moved me, or made me cry. I can count the ones that have on my hand. Ari and Dante is one of them, it's so incredibly poignant and beautiful and raw it's impossible not to be taken on a wild emotional ride. It truly plays with your heart, and delivers lessons which are inspiring and hurtful. It was like having all my pain laid down at my feet.

But reading this was also such a catharsis, like for 300 pages all the pain and confusion was sucked out of me and finally here was an author and here were two characters who got me, and accepted me, and understood.

I don't just enjoy this book, I am so grateful for it. It changed my life, truly. It is a masterpiece and no review I could ever write would do it justice. But please know I do love it, so so much.

“I wanted to tell them that I'd never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren't meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever. And that somehow it felt like it was Dante who had saved my life and not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me. I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn't have the words. So I just stupidly repeated myself. "Dante's my friend.”
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,292 reviews2,287 followers
February 5, 2023
***This one cannot go wrong if you are looking for something to read

YA done right💞
*Dante, you make me want to speak Spanish. Oh, I simply don't know why*

*what I loved:
✨The amazing writing style
✨The character development and the various character representations
✨The slow burn romance
✨The realistic plot
✨Young adult theme done right
✨And it's the short chapters that kept me rushing through the book! Actually this is the first book I wish the chapters were longer and the chapters would just go on and on. Everything is so perfect when it comes to this book. The beginning was perfect, the ending was perfect and everything in between was perfect.
Every character stood out; the main character remains the central theme yet everything else was given importance in a way that you are grateful that the other characters make this character the way he was and how he was to be in the end. Complex emotions were dealt with so much sensitivity and in a mature way that the message just hit you both hard and soft that you have to embrace it with all your being.
This is the first YA book that represents different parents in a way that would have been very difficult to represent but yes, this author nailed it.

Ari's father is a quiet man who is hiding a war in him after being to the actual war. His mother is frail yet strong in a way you want every mother to be. There's this forbidden topic of bringing up his older brother in the family. And Ari's life as a teenager is confusing and difficult.

And then there's Dante. The sunshine and everything perfect for a fictional character. (You will fall in love with him the moment you get to know him. No, he's not that typical perfect handsome guy. Nah.) His family is something you would want to get acquainted with.

There's this Dante way of loving Ari that makes this book so good to read. And the best part is that this love is not perfect and it seems so real as confusing as it gets for Ari.

Several sensitive issues like bullying, death, grieve, lgbt, PTSD have been represented so well with sensitivity and understanding.

*Actually I cannot find anything that could have been done better or otherwise

I loved how everything was given importance like how it really is in reality. And yes, the dog Legs. I just love her. And I just love Dante. His parents. Ari represents most of us I feel on different levels. And I was able to connect with this character so much! We all struggle a lot like he does. It's the acceptance and the forgiveness parts that made me feel so good about this particular read. I really don't know how to write reviews about such perfect books. But yes, it's not enough to say that this book is good.

I. Loved. Every. Freaking. Word. Of. This. Book.
Profile Image for may ➹.
480 reviews1,942 followers
March 18, 2020
you know what??? it was a REALLY good idea to reread this book (3/14/20: for the third time) I mean it’s not like I sobbed myself to sleep at 1am last night or anything
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,236 reviews26.6k followers
June 27, 2021
I just finished reading this book for the third time, and god damn I just love this book so much. The first time I read this was seven years ago, and I've been wanting to reread it for so long and I finally did. I had forgotten that this book takes place in the 80's and I forgot just how much I adore Dante and his family. Aristotle is an incredibly relatable character for me: when I was 15 I struggled with my identity and I also felt angry and depressed all the time and I could never really figure out why. I also love his sense of humor, he's hilarious in this book. I love how fleshed out Aristotle and Dante's parents and families are - they all felt so vivid and real. Dante is such a warm and positive person and I just adore him so much. Ughhhh this book is so cute and the writing is so lyrical and beautiful. This helped me get out of my reading slump again, which is great! I didn't remember how heavy and dark and sad this book could get at times and it had me crying in the middle of the day. Ah, so amazing. I really hope there is a sequel because I need more Aristotle and Dante in my life.

One of the secrets of the universe was that our instincts were sometimes stronger than our minds.
Wow, I didn't expect much from this book when I started reading it, but I instantly fell in love with the writing style. The writing is so beautiful. I finished this book in one day because I couldn't put it down and I couldn't get enough of this writing. This book made me laugh and cry and it's such a breath of fresh air. I've been in a reading slump lately, and I haven't been able to get through a contemporary without getting bored lately, but this book made me realize why I love contemporaries. This book reminded me why I love reading so much in the first place. This book dives deep into the meaning of family, friendship, and life itself. It was beautiful to watch these two characters discover who they are, and really live their lives for the very first time. Not only were the main characters Aristotle and Dante very well developed, but all of the side characters like their parents and their friends were also very well developed, and I felt something for each of them.

Aristotle was an extremely relatable character. I feel like I was very similar to his character when I was 15. I was confused and sad and angry, and I do think that that's just a part of growing up. I especially related to the way Ari constantly says he feels alone. Like in this quote he says, "In a strange way, my friendship with Dante had made me feel even more alone. Maybe it was because Dante seemed to make himself fit everywhere he went. And me, I always felt that I didn't belong anywhere." I completely get where he's coming from, how sometimes, even close friendships make you feel alone and like an outcast. Also when he says "I had a rule that it was better to be bored by yourself than to be bored with someone else. Maybe that's why I didn't have any friends." I relate to this completely and I kind of live by that rule as well, even if I didn't realize it till now. I'd rather be busy than bored, but being busy doesn't make you happy.

This book also made me laugh so many times! Like when Ari says "I wasn't wildly popular. How could I be? In order to be wildly popular you had to make people believe that you were fun and interesting. I just wasn't that much of a con artist." That's so true! I couldn't stop laughing. Also, when Ari tells his Dad that he doesn't want to go back to the boy scouts, and he says "If you make me go back I swear I'll start smoking pot" I was dying of laughter. Ari had a hilarious personality and I absolutely loved reading this book from his perspective. I felt so bad for his family and all that they had to deal with with his brother and his Dad going to war, it was heartbreaking.

With beautiful quotes like "If summer was a book then I was going to write something beautiful in it," and "Somehow I'd hoped that this would be the summer that I would discover that I was alive. the world my mom and dad said was out there waiting for me. That world doesn't actually exist," and also this beautiful quote about dreams, "I have this idea that the reason we have dreams is that we're thinking about things we don't know we're thinking about-and those things, well, they sneak out of us in our dreams. Maybe we're like tires with too much air in them. The air has to leak out. That's what dreams are." This book was so lyrical and beautiful, and I could go on and on with quotes that I highlighted. The beautiful quotes made me stop reading for a second and made me think about life and question things and isn't that what we want from reading anyway? To get something out of it, and make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside? That's exactly what this book did for me.

If I had to sum up this book with only a few words, they would be: rain, dreams, sad, shoes, birds, life, boys, anger, summer, and family. I really loved this book. It's one of my all time favorites now.

"Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer morning could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder."
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
611 reviews87.5k followers
April 14, 2017
Update Feb 2017
Lowering my rating to 3 stars since I think 4.5 was super duper generous

I just didn't really love it as much as I had thought I would. Another case of a book being too hyped up for it to possibly live up to my expectations unfortunately.
That being said I did still really enjoy it and thing it was a beautiful story, pretty similar to some other books I've read though.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,794 followers
April 8, 2017
So, this is probably going to be the last review I write bc I don’t think I’m going to survive the boycotting my friends are going to inflict on me after I roast this book.

Firstly, I want to apologize to the world.


So the beginning was cute. It was cute in a middle-school-book kinda way. But going in thinking this was YA and getting an onslaught of 99% CONVERSATION and 0% PLOT made me feel ripped off.

I must say though, I appreciate the diversity. That’s definitely one of the only things I enjoyed about the book. Portraying Mexican boys and from a realistic perspective, v appreciated.

But that doesn’t erase the fact that I’m unsure what the point of this book was and so I grew bored V V quickly and began skimming to a HIGH DEGREE.

The writing was easy to read, though it was very choppy and all over the place.

Ari pissed me off multiple times, even though I kinda get it, but why he HAS to be a JERK for NO absolute reason, like plz youre 15 get over yourself.

I’m positive everyone is getting their torches ready to burn me at the stake, especially, amy and pragya BUT LISTEN HERE, WE CAN BE ADULTS AND WE CAN HAVE OPINIONS AND WE CAN STILL BE FRIENDS OKAY.


Everyone is coming out of here crying and sobbing and being all sappy and I’m just like
So if anyone is willing to forgive me and maybe explain to me why this was such a beloved book that’d be great.
Kay thanks, sorrynotsorry bye.

“Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing.”

2 stars!!


this is only happening bc of peer pressure i hope youre happy
October 28, 2022

"One summer night, I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke."

It is a book with short chapters but the novel isn’t short (lengthwise and contentwise!). It’s a story about love, an organic love-story, a constructive love story! Don’t we meetup few people and feel as if we have known them for ages? Aristotle "Ari" Mendoza and Dante Quintana, two distinctive Mexican-American teenager boys of the 80s, are like the two souls separated for ages, and met here in this book. Though the setting is of the 80s, but I personally felt timelessness and nothing explicit related to the 80s!

On the threshold of adulthood, the two teenagers are in a search of knowing themselves and deciphering the anomalies of the world. Most of the books I recently read are about abusive parents, indifferent parents, but the “happy family” trope, offered a welcome relief! Both Ari and Dante’s families are loving yet flawed, and offers parental support.

The writing is very simple and concise. Though a very straightforward writing, but if has an inciting straightforward impact on the readers!

Aristotle(Ari), is a wallflower, doesn’t have many friends, preferred being bored alone than in the company of friends, is curious and inquisitive. Dante, his soul-partner, the “know-it-all” with a distinctive way of perceiving the secrets of the universe, helps Ari in finding answers. They set on the journey of becoming lifetime special friends. They set on the quest, for discovering their emotions, identities, secrets of the convoluted universe, while not strangulating each other’s freedom.

One of the great novels on LGBTQ YA, with a warm storyline.
This book offers warmth and love, and is a perfect bedtime read 😊

There is an abundance of tabbed quotes, sharing few-

• Words were different when they lived inside of you.
• This is my problem. I want other people to tell me how they feel. But I’m not so sure I want to return the favor.
• The problem with trying hard not to think about something was that you thought about it even more.
• Sometimes, all you have to do is tell people the truth. They won’t believe you. After that, they’ll leave you alone.
• The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea
• Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing.
• I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get–and never would get.
• I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.

A 4-star for this tender book!!!!

Friendship/ love generally brings in a crumb of captivity/restriction, but this is a beautiful story where love brings in more freedom, offers respite from the perplexities of the world 😊

NB – For me, Ari’s inner soliloquies, equates him as the modern times “Hamlet” 😊
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
August 22, 2019
I remember I finished this book crying so hard I was shaking, in a good way, and then reading it twice more in the trip I finished it on because I loved it so much.

* This review contains spoilers.

Aristotle Mendoza is young and angry. With his brother in prison for assault, and his father loving but haunted by the Vietnam war, his main solace is in his friendship with a boy named Dante. Friendship would be his description of their relationship; when Dante kisses him around halfway through, he tells Dante it does not work for him. His internal narration in this scene cannot tell us differently, as it completely disappears.

Aristotle and Dante begins with Ari believing he must become a man in the patterns of masculinity that have come before him: he must be violent, protect himself and his friends by physically fighting back against bullies (as he does) and denying his feelings the chance to get in his way (as he attempts). “The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea,” Ari says in the first chapter of the book, encompassing the conflict: how is he meant to find his way as a man when there is only one path, one he does not fit? In Ari’s mind, love is vulnerability; loving a man is both vulnerability and hurt, meaning violence from others. (His brother, as we find out towards the end, is in prison for a hate crime — the violent assault of a trans woman.) Loving a man does not fit the role of a man, and so he represses. As Dante tells Ari:
“I guess I'm going to tell my dad. I have this little speech. It starts something like this. Dad, I have something to say. I like boys. Don't hate me. Please don't hate me, don't hate me don't hate me.”

We, as the audience, can see everything clearer; we figure out quite soon into the story, when he jumps in front of a car to save Dante, that Ari is falling in love. In fact, it is clear that some readers found it frustrating to read Ari deny himself feeling so completely; the Goodreads reviews should point to that. Yet for me, and for many other queer youth, seeing Ari’s self-denial rings true. Falling for a best friend is a uniquely devastating experience, and one most of us experience early on but are quick to repress.

(I say us, here, to mean people who are not heterosexual. My data pool for this statement is almost every queer person I’ve ever known.)

But for Ari, this is not a devastating experience; it is an experience in learning love and trust before even dating someone. Their friendship begins by a pool, joking about two ridiculous first names; it progresses into talking about everything under the sun. “He was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me,” Ari says of Dante (although, of course, only in his head).

Aristotle and Dante ends with Aristotle realizing his feelings for Dante and confessing to him that he loves him: in other words, his ending is to realize that love is not a weakness. The conflict is his development into a man, but Ari’s realization that he likes Dante, and boys in general, is inextricably wound with his development into a man. Finding himself through the perils of toxic masculinity, in other words, is his coming of age.

I mean, don't get me wrong, this book is gorgeous on every level. The prose of this book is excellent without being overtly pretentious. (I swear it flows across the page like music - it's like John Green except less forced and never tiring.) I feel like I've explained this, but the character work outshines at least 99% of literature - Aristotle's character development is amazing?? Incredible?? Changed me as a person?? Also, I could go on and on for this point, but the main characters have such a beautiful slow-build relationship - I could go on and on about how perfect Ari and Dante are together, and how sweet their interactions are. I also generally think this was one of the first books that taught me about narrative weight and narrative critique - there is homophobia deeply buried in this book, beneath the surface and on the page, but Alire Saenz is careful to acknowledge and understand it. It's an exploration I doubt I'll ever forget.

I think it's, above all, that this is a book meant for us. It's a book meant for our specific experiences, it is a book meant to be an exploration of us, not for anyone else. This is a deeply important book, for me, on a personal level. And I think it will be for many other readers.

**I want to note here that Alire Saenz's behavior towards reviewers has not been ideal; sending emails to reviewers because you disagree is genuinely never okay, and though I believe there was a public apology for this (that I can no longer find) it's something to be aware of when reading and reviewing his work. Stay safe, y'all.

TW: violent homophobia and transphobia, discussions of hate crimes.

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Profile Image for chloe.
242 reviews28.3k followers
March 8, 2019
2nd read: March 2019 (audiobook)
I loved this even more than I did the first time. An absolute favourite.

1st read: Sep-Oct 2017 (audiobook)
Profile Image for Nicole.
441 reviews13.4k followers
August 17, 2021
4,5/5 Jedna z najbardziej wartościowych młodzieżówek.
November 10, 2015
Hay libros que están llenos de frases bonitas, pero que no te dicen nada; hay libros en los que pasa poco, pero en los que sientes mucho; y luego hay libros que te hacen descubrir que los secretos del universo pueden estar escondidos a simple vista en las cosas más sencillas, en las personas que ves todos los días o en medio del desierto mientras ves las estrellas desde la parte de atrás de tu pick up truck. No sé si esto tenga mucho sentido, tal vez no... pero mi punto es que Aristóteles y Dante Descubren los Secretos del Universo es un libro único y del que se puede disfrutar hasta la última palabra.

1987, El Paso, Texas. Aristóteles y Dante son dos chicos de 15 años bastante diferentes: Ari es tímido, se guarda todo para sí, tiene una familia que guarda secretos y le gustaría ser un chico rudo; Dante es extrovertido, alegre, su familia es tremendamente amorosa, adora leer y está un poco loco. Durante el verano se conocen y, desafiando todos los pronósticos, se vuelven inseparables, mejores amigos. El libro va a seguir la historia de estos dos chicos y de cómo se van conociendo a ellos mismos, cómo van lidiando con sus situaciones familiares y personales y cómo a medida que vamos creciendo esas locas cosas llamadas sentimientos van enredando nuestras vidas y nuestras cabezas hasta niveles insospechados.

Lo decía hoy por ahí y lo repito: este es uno de los libros más bonitos que he leído en todo el año. Y no sólo porque la narración esté muy cuidada y se aleje de lo convencional para acercarse más a... no sé, lo ¿lírico?, sino porque cada capítulo te transmite diferentes sentimientos, te transporta a El Paso con Ari y Dante y hace que recuerdes los problemas y dramas que eran propios de tener 15 años. Quizá de las cosas que más me gustó del libro es que Ari y Dante no tienen la amistad más perfecta del planeta, sino que es muy difícil y a veces ni se entienden... pero siguen allí para el otro.

Y nada, decir que a mí las historias de chico-chico bien contadas me derriten el corazón y me hacen fangirlear tanto como las chico-chica. Y es que, en serio, ya a nadie le debería extrañar que la literatura juvenil se está diversificando y que salgan libros tan preciosos como Aristóteles y Dante de vez en cuando. Creo que leer historias así nos vuelve aún más tolerantes y hace que entendamos que amor es amor, sea como sea, y punto final.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,534 reviews32.4k followers
August 19, 2018
okay, im bumping up my original rating because sometimes i find myself randomly thinking about this book, even months after finishing this, so obviously i liked it more than i initially thought i did.

this was a sweet and touching story, but i keep coming back to the way the story was told. the writing was honestly of the highest quality. it was pure and raw and just so dang honest. i dont think i have ever related to a teenaged boy before, but this book changed that. the characters were just so well executed, making them easy to relate to and even love.

this book is dedicated ‘for all the boys who have had to learn to play by different rules’ and i couldnt describe this story more perfectly than that if i tried. but i also think this novel has something to offer to every single person. its one of those books that transcends boundaries because at the heart of it is a message and lesson that everyone needs to read.

as you can tell, i enjoyed this, so check back again in a few weeks because i will probably bump the rating up again. :P

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Hersh.
148 reviews415 followers
December 14, 2014
Do you remember the feeling you get when you watch the sun rise or set?

Do you remember the feeling you get when you're so happy that you felt like flying?

Do you remember the feeling you get when you're so sad and alone that you felt like curling yourself into a ball and wishing you never had to move on?

Do you remember the feeling you get when you're so mad that you don't know why your mad?

Do you remember the feeling you get when you wished you knew the mysteries of life?

Well, this book brought up all those feelings. I don't know what to say about this book. There are tons of emotions warring inside me. So many that I cannot even state them. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is beautiful. The Universe is you. You need to discover yourself. And that was what this book was about. Discovering one's true self.

"Someday, I'm going to discover all the secrets of the universe."

Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,463 reviews9,618 followers
March 2, 2019
Reread for a challenge in one of my groups and omg, I forgot how much I loved it!

One of my favorite quotes:

So I named myself Ari
If I switched the letter, my name was Air
I thought it might be a great thing to be the air
I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me


There are almost no words for how much I loved this book. I got chills, I cried, I got mad, I fell in love with both boys.

Ari and Dante are both different from other people. They are loners, they don't really know how to react to people, although Dante is a little more outspoken than Ari.... well I guess you could say Dante is a big soul just trying to be contained :)

They become friends at the swimming pool when Ari is sort of floating around because he doesn't know how to swim and Dante offers to help him. They become fast friends in their own strange way.

It was so wonderful to read this story unfold right before my eyes.

Ari has a lot of problems with never have been allowed to meet his brother who is in jail. No on in the family will mention his name, there isn't even a picture set out of him. Imagine turning seventeen and still not know your own brother. Ari has two older sisters as well and they have families of their own and they won't talk about him either. Ari's parents are nice people, his dad has problems from the war and is not to outspoken. This causes some issues with Ari as well.

Dante is so funny and quirky, he just does whatever he feels like doing. He doesn't worry about what people think of him. His parents are wonderful and a little quirky too.

I hate when I get to this part because I don't want to give away any spoilers!! I just felt like these are two boys I could be friends with if they would let me :) They have their own little world where they take care of each other. I mean one almost dies for the other one. That's the part that gave me chills!

It was emotionally draining, but such a feel good book.

Happy Reading!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
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